It’s that time of year again, and like other students around me I’m off “home-home” for Christmas. Maybe I’ve grown out of the stereotypes of going home for laundry, good food and heating, but it will still feel good to be home.
Two weeks of spending time with my family, catching up with old friends and the traditional gathering with my cousins. It’s a time of last minute shopping, plenty of festive food, Christmas albums playing on loop and more than one argument over a board game. Home is a comfortable, safe and welcoming refuge where I can recover from the stress and drama of the semester, and share stories with my family of all the great things we’ve done this year.
I’m very lucky to have all this, I know. There are many who can’t go home this Christmas, who don’t have a home to go to, or who don’t have friends or family there to spend it with. Many elderly people will be spending Christmas at home alone, while homeless people across the country hope for shelter from the cold. People far away from home, whether seeking refuge, adventure or a new life must spend the season in a new place, without the traditions and home comforts they may be used to at this time of year.
Even for those who don’t celebrate Christmas, it’s a time to be with loved ones and come together against the cold of British December. From international students using the holidays to explore the UK or spend time with new friends here, to local students living at home who see all their friends leave for the season, being home for Christmas is not something to be taken for granted.
As for me, I can’t wait.
1) Think about what home means to you.
2) Grab your phone, laptop, camera or anything with a video recording device and say what home means to you in a sentence, word or gesture.
3) The video can be up to 30 seconds long.
4) Once you have taken the video email it to us or tag us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
5) We will then share your video on the OxHRF Instagram and add you to our collection of ideas.
6) Last but not least follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!
15,195km, 21 hours 15 minutes by plane, 32 days by ship. That is the distance between my old life and my new life. 9 hours behind in time and 4 oceans away from my family, friends, job security, sunshine and home. This got me thinking, but what is home? Is home where my heart is with my boyfriend in Kent, or is it in London where my eldest sister has been living for the last 4 years or is back where I just came from with my baby sister and parents, is that where my home is?
I believe, perceptions of ‘home’ do vary depending on culture and backgrounds but really it comes down to the individual opinions. I was raised in a predominately aboriginal community on an island off the coast of Brisbane, Australia. To my godmother Nunna from the Quandamooka tribe, home is the land we grew up on, the land that was stolen. To her and her tribe, they will never get their home back. I asked my roommate what is it like to live from home, be away from home? And what was home to him. As my roommate proclaimed ‘it is wherever everyone sounds the same as me.’
Today in the streets of Oxford I paused at this thought, what is home? I turned the question on the homeless man sitting rugged up in his sleeping bag on the pavement, “sir, you are called homeless, therefore it is perceived that you have ‘less than a home’, but what does home mean to you” his answer was short and sweet, “wherever my hat lands, that is my home for the night”.
Home is therefore not four walls and a roof, it is not always the country to which you come from, and it is not always where your loved ones are. Each of us have different meanings and each of us call different places in the world home. I believe that is what makes ‘home’ so special.
Music plays a huge role in making people feel ‘home’. Funk, soul, R&B, blues, pop, rock, hip hop… Everyone has their favourites guaranteed to make them happy!
The Witney Refugee Action Group decided to harness this creative element a few months after the Government resettled 6 Syrian families to Witney. We decided to organise a one day international music festival (Witney’s first!) to raise money for Oxford based charity Asylum Welcome and to formally welcome the arrivals to their new home. After months of organising bands, food, bar, raffle and activities, ‘Asylum Sounds’ was born! Music ranged from roots blues to turkabilly gyp-hop to DJs playing funk and soul into the night. We had poetry and live art by local artists Owen Collins and David Ranson, speakers such as local Labour councillor Laura Price, Amel Alariqi a refugee from Yemen who now works for Asylum Welcome and the executive director of Oxfam International, Winnie Byanyima. We also had an art auction with paintings donated by local artist Karima Brooke, a massive raffle thanks to generous local donations, a cake sale and amazing children’s arts and crafts by In Our Element including a ‘build your own drum’ table.
We wanted to make the Syrian families feel comfortable, at home and able to share their own culture with us so we asked them if they wanted to bring some home-cooked meals to share with everyone. We named it a ‘Taste of Syria’ and for a small donation you could try anything on the table. It was such a success that I didn’t even get a chance to try any myself! A definite highlight was when the children of the families surprised everyone by getting up on stage to sing a song. Safe to say there was not a dry eye in the room.
All in all, it was a magical day full of art, music, food and love! We managed to raise £2000 for Asylum Welcome and £495 for the 7Cs Foundation, the local charity that gave us the venue.
We all learned a lot that day. That music really does bring people together and that no matter who you are or where you’re from, it’s always possible to create a home if it’s in your heart.
For more about the day (photos, videos and possibly even plans for next year’s event!), you can follow us on Facebook.
Throughout the semester members of the student committee will take turns to write a blog. It might be about organising the Festival, it might be about something else they are doing in or away from Brookes, it might be thoughts on our theme of home. Check in regularly to find out!